Ziggy Ansah has been an Inconsistent, but at Times Productive Pass Rusher for the Detroit Lions. Was Franchise Tagging Him the Right Move for the Team?
The Lions had a good amount of cap room heading into the off season. Franchise tagging Ziggy Ansah put a huge dent in the money that the Lions had available to them heading into free agency. It was one of the contributing factors in the Lions not making any “splash” signings.
Ziggy Ansah, former first round pick, has shown flashes of being the elite pass rusher that he was drafted to be. He has also disappeared for stretches of seasons and struggled to remain healthy for a full 16 games.
Outside of Ziggy, the Lions are very dry on talent in the pass rushing department. The Detroit Lions Podcast writing staff shares their thoughts on whether spending the big money to retain Ansah for another season was the right move.
Tagging Ziggy was something that, quite honestly, just needed to be done. While his inconsistency and injury history has plagued him, there were no better options on the market and tying him up for now while the team has the cap space to do it was the obvious choice. Whether he’s worth the mega contract isn’t really the point. He provides a level of play that the Lions wouldn’t have found anywhere else in an immediate fashion. This allows Bob Quinn to evaluate again next year and see where it leads as far as a potential deal in the future goes.
I think that tagging Ansah was absolutely the right move. The Lions already have a need at pass rusher. Letting Ziggy Ansah walk would have only compounded the issue. The Lions already need to take a long look at the top edge rushers in the incoming 2018 NFL Draft. Without Ziggy Ansah, the Lions would be locked into having to take a pass rusher in the first round or two.
Franchising Ansah, while certainly not cheap, gives the Lions an opportunity to further evaluate his future with the team, something that frequent health issues have hindered. It also allows the Lions more flexibility in the draft. The Lions have enough holes to fill as it is. Franchising Ziggy ensures that the Lions don’t actively create any more holes than they have to.
The cost obviously isn’t ideal but I think that the resulting flexibility as well as potential outweigh the price tag.
Bob Quin absolutely made the right call with tagging Ziggy Ansah. The Lions had plenty of cap room to absorb the big cap hit from the tag. The free agency market and draft are very shallow at both depth and top end talent in 2018, so finding a quality replacement for Ansah would be quite difficult and likely require a bit of luck, like a premier edge player falling early in the draft. Which is highly unlikely considering EDGE players are typically overdrafted because of how valuable the position is in the NFL’s passing league.
I do actually prefer the tag to making a long-term deal at this point. During the draft process for Ansah, it came out that he is quite older than most prospects. Now, he is coming off his rookie deal at the age of 29 and is two years removed from being a premier edge player in the NFL. Most of which are due to lower body injuries that limited the unreal athletic ability he possessed that, made him an elite defender.
All these question marks leave you wondering if he can return to that elite level of production, while also questioning the longevity of his future in the NFL. The franchise tag gives Ansah one more year to prove that he has moved past his injuries and is still an elite player. Bob Quinn now has the option to extend him if he does have elite play or move on.
Ziggy Ansah is a player who has certainly under-performed for the Lions as of late. In the last two seasons, he has made just 14 sacks. Ansah had three games with three sacks in this span, meaning he made only five sacks in the other 29 games in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. This came after a hot start to his career; Ansah made 30 sacks in his first three NFL seasons.
So, with Ansah set to hit free agency, Lions general manager Bob Quinn had to make a tough decision. The options were to sign Ansah to a long term deal with hopes that he rebounds, place the franchise tag on him, or let him sign with another team. Quinn ultimately chose the franchise tag, which is essentially a one year, fully guaranteed contract at $17,143,000.
Because of the cost of the franchise tag, the Lions were not able to do a lot in free agency. After tagging Ansah, they had just under $30M in salary cap space to re-sign their own players or pursue free agents from other teams. This raises the question, was placing the franchise tag on Ansah worth it? Did Bob Quinn make the correct decision?
The answer to this question is yes. While Ansah may be coming off of a couple down years, he is still an athletic freak and there is a very good chance that he could rebound to what he was during the 2013-2015 seasons. Also, while Ansah’s sack numbers have declined as time has gone on, he has continued to be a very good defender against the run. In two games that he missed against the Browns and Bears, the Lions gave up over 400 rushing yards. For most of the rest of last season (when Ansah played), the Lions run defense was very solid.
If the Lions hadn’t franchise tagged Ansah, it also would’ve been extremely difficult to replace him. This was a very weak free agent class for edge defenders, leaving no stand out players to potentially replace Ansah. And, if Quinn had let Ansah walk, it is still no guarantee he would have been able to sign an edge defender he wanted anyway. In the end, there was no real choice, tagging Ziggy Ansah was the only real option.
Click HERE For A Comprehensive Database of the 2018 Free Agents